The English, historical-instrument, Baroque ensemble La Serenissima (the term was a nickname for the city of Venice) has specialized in somewhat scholarly recordings that nevertheless retain considerable general appeal, and the group does it again with this release. The program offers some lesser-known composers, and some lesser-known pieces by famous composers like the tiny and fascinating Concerto alla rustica for two oboes, bassoon, strings, and continuo, RV 151. What ties the program together formally is that it covers a range of Italian cities that were becoming cultural centers as they declined in political power: not only Venice (Vivaldi, Albinoni, Caldara), but also Padua (Tartini), Bologna (Torelli), and Rome (Corelli). There are several works by composers known only for one or two big hits, and these are especially rewarding. Sample the opening movement of Tartini's Violin Concerto E major, DS 51, with its unusual phrase construction and daringly chromatic cadenza passage: it has the exotic quality for which Tartini became famous, but it does not rely on sheer virtuosity. That work is played by leader Adrian Chandler himself, but he also chooses pieces for a large variety of other solo instruments: the Italian Baroque was about more than the violin. Each work on the album has something to recommend it, and collectively the performances may make up the best album of 2017 whose booklet includes footnotes.
Albinoni might be described as a specialist in the medium of the Concerto a cinque, of which he composed 54, published at intervals during almost half his productive life. The first six appeared in his Op 2 (1700), together with six sonatas from which they inherited some structural features, and were followed in 1707 by the 12 of Op 5. They were 'halfway houses' on the road to the violin concerto per se as we know it – and as Vivaldi established it four years later.Virtuoso passages for a solo violin appear only en passant in flanking movements and 'symmetrically' in the Adagios of Nos 3, 6, 9 and 12. Each Concerto is in three-movement form and all the finales are fugal, as they are in the Op 2, though in their simplicity they sound rather like rondos.
For consistently amiable, if undemanding entertainment, Albinoni’s concertos, with or without oboe, or oboes, are hard to beat. Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music here perform the 12 concertos contained in the collection published in 1722 as the composer’s Op. 9.
Tomaso Albinoni was a contemporary of Vivaldi in Venice, and his Concerti a cinque opus 9, published in 1722, provide ample evidence of his felicity in composition. His wife was a well-known opera singer, and his oboe concertos sound like wonderfully cantabile instrumental da capo arias: first there is an energetic fast movement, then a lyrical slow movement, followed by another fast movement that once again takes up themes from the first movement. The music is contrapuntal, harmonious, balanced and, to put it blankly, full of sheer enjoyment…
This two-CD reissue contains only the complete set (of 12) that appeared in his lifetime – several dozen more are extant. Published as his Op. 4 in Venice in 1702, these chamber cantatas are typical Baroque ‘languish ’n’ anguish’ love laments, six scored for solo soprano voice, six for solo alto. They are beautifully sung by Barbara Schlick and Derek Lee Ragin.
A celebration of instrumental Baroque splendour! This set present an anthology of Italian Baroque composers, featuring their instrumental output. Obviously the famous composers have their fair share: Vivaldi, Albinoni, Locatelli, Corelli, but also lesser known composers are featured: Barsanti, Bassani, Veracini, Nardini, Stradella, Vitali, Mancini, Platti, Legrenze and many more, over 30 composers! Performances by leading ensembles specialized in the Historically Informed Performance Practice: L'Arte dell'Arco/Federico Guglielmo, Ensemble Cordia/Stefano Veggetti, Violini Capricciosi/Igor Ruhadze, MusicaAmphion/Pieter Jan Belder and many more. A treasure trove of solo concertos, concerti grossi, sinfonias, overtures, trio sonatas and solo sonatas from the Golden Era of the Italian Baroque, era of joy, passion and brilliance!
…If that's not enticement enough, suffice it is to say Zig Zag Territories' Albinoni: Sinfonie a Cinque, Op. 2, is urgently recommended for those afflicted with a taste of high-quality Baroque music and will happily appeal to less specialized musical interests who just want to hear something pleasing, yet substantial.